Today's Liberal News

Jacob Stern

The Dream of Streaming Is Dead

Remember when streaming was supposed to let us watch whatever we want, whenever we want, for a sliver of the cost of cable? Well, so much for that. In recent years, streaming has gotten confusing and expensive as more services than ever are vying for eyeballs. It has done the impossible: made people miss the good old-fashioned cable bundle.
Now the bundles are back. Last week, Disney and Warner Bros.

A Critic’s Case Against Cinema

This is an edition of Time-Travel Thursdays, a journey through The Atlantic’s archives to contextualize the present and surface delightful treasures. Sign up here.
Before Pauline Kael was Pauline Kael, she was still very much Pauline Kael. When her first essay for The Atlantic ran in November 1964, she had not yet lost it at the movies. She had not yet become Pauline Kael, the vaunted and polarizing film critic for The New Yorker.

Every Tech Company Wants to Be Like Boston Dynamics

The robot is shaped like a human, but it sure doesn’t move like one. It starts supine on the floor, pancake-flat. Then, in a display of superhuman joint mobility, its legs curl upward from the knees, sort of like a scorpion tail, until its feet settle firmly on the floor beside its hips. From there, it stands up, a swiveling mass of silver limbs. The robot’s ring-light head turns a full 180 degrees to face the camera, as though possessed. Then it lurches forward at you.

A Chess Formula Is Taking Over the World

In October 2003, Mark Zuckerberg created his first viral site: not Facebook, but FaceMash. Then a college freshman, he hacked into Harvard’s online dorm directories, gathered a massive collection of students’ headshots, and used them to create a website on which Harvard students could rate classmates by their attractiveness, literally and figuratively head-to-head.

Zyn Was 100 Years in the Making

For something that isn’t candy, Zyn nicotine pouches sure look a lot like it. The packaging, a small metal can, looks more than a little like a tin of mints. The pouches come in a wide variety of flavors: citrus, cinnamon, “chill,” “smooth.” And they’re consumed orally, more like jawbreakers or Warheads than cigarettes.
America has found itself in the beginnings of a Zyn panic. As cigarette and vape use have trailed off in recent years, Zyn and other nicotine pouches are gaining traction.

Pfizer Couldn’t Pay for Marketing This Good

On June 3, 2021, a roughly 60-year-old man in the riverside city of Magdeburg, Germany, received his first COVID vaccine. He opted for Johnson & Johnson’s shot, popular at that point because unlike Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines, it was one-and-done. But that, evidently, was not what he had in mind. The following month, he got the AstraZeneca vaccine. The month after that, he doubled up on AstraZeneca and added a Pfizer for good measure.

Gummy Vitamins Are Just Candy

These days, the options for dietary supplements are virtually limitless. And whatever substance you want to ingest, you can find it in gummy form. Omega-3? You bet. Vitamin C? Absolutely. Iron? Calcium? Zinc? Yes, yes, and yes. There are peach collagen rings and strawberry-watermelon fiber rings. There are brambleberry probiotic gummies and “tropical zing” gummy worms that promise to put you in “an upbeat mood.” There are libido gummies and menopause gummies.

Substack Was a Ticking Time Bomb

When the writer Ryan Broderick joined Substack in 2020, it felt, he told me, like an “oasis.” The email-newsletter platform gave him a direct line to his readers. He did not have to deal with the chaos and controversy of social media. Substack was far from perfect, he knew—COVID conspiracies flourished, and on at least one occasion, trans writers on the platform were doxxed and harassed—but compared with the rest of the internet, he found the conditions tolerable. Until they weren’t.

The Great PowerPoint Panic of 2003

The new media technology was going to make us stupid, to reduce all human interaction to a sales pitch. It was going to corrode our minds, degrade communication, and waste our time. Its sudden rise and rapid spread through business, government, and education augured nothing less than “the end of reason,” as one famous artist put it, for better or for worse. In the end, it would even get blamed for the live-broadcast deaths of seven Americans on national television.

‘Things Don’t Always Change in a Nice, Gradual Way’

It’s getting hard to keep track of all the overlapping climate disasters. In Phoenix, Arizona, the temperature has broken 110 degrees for nearly two weeks running. The waters off the Florida coast are approaching hot-tub hot, and before long, marine heat waves may cover half the world’s oceans. Up north, Canada’s worst wildfire season on record burns on and continues to suffocate American cities with sporadic smoke, which may not clear for good until October.

Killer Whales Are Not Our Friends

In recent months, orcas in the waters off the Iberian Peninsula have taken to ramming boats. The animals have already sunk three this year and damaged several more. After one of the latest incidents, in which a catamaran lost both of its rudders, the boat’s captain suggested that the assailants have grown stealthier and more efficient: “Looks like they knew exactly what they are doing,” he said.

What the Pandemic Simulations Missed

In October 2019, just a few months before a novel coronavirus sparked a deadly pandemic, a group of government officials, business leaders, and academics convened in New York City to role-play a scenario in which a novel coronavirus sparked a deadly pandemic. Their imagined virus leaped from livestock to farmers in Brazil, then spread to Portugal, the United States, and China. Soon, it was everywhere. Eighteen months later, 65 million people were dead.

Where’s the AI Culture War?

You know something strange is afoot when Elon Musk comes out in favor of tech regulation. Or when Kevin McCarthy and a left-wing Joe Biden appointee agree that one particular issue is a priority. These are not people who tend to agree on, well, anything. But such are the nascent, topsy-turvy politics of artificial intelligence.AI is not really a single issue you can be for or against the way you can with, say, guns or abortion.

AI Is Like … Nuclear Weapons?

The concern, as Edward Teller saw it, was quite literally the end of the world. He had run the calculations, and there was a real possibility, he told his Manhattan Project colleagues in 1942, that when they detonated the world’s first nuclear bomb, the blast would set off a chain reaction. The atmosphere would ignite. All life on Earth would be incinerated. Some of Teller’s colleagues dismissed the idea, but others didn’t.

GPT-4 Has the Memory of a Goldfish

By this point, the many defects of AI-based language models have been analyzed to death—their incorrigible dishonesty, their capacity for bias and bigotry, their lack of common sense. GPT-4, the newest and most advanced such model yet, is already being subjected to the same scrutiny, and it still seems to misfire in pretty much all the ways earlier models did. But large language models have another shortcoming that has so far gotten relatively little attention: their shoddy recall.

More Seinfeld Than Seinfeld Itself

Since the hit sitcom Seinfeld went off the air in 1998 after nine seasons, the show’s devoted followers have long mused about an alternate reality: What if the original “show about nothing” had never ended?Now they’ve gotten what they wished for—well, sort of. In mid-December, a never-ending AI-generated reboot, aptly named Nothing, Forever, launched on the streaming platform Twitch.

May the Best Stove Win

Somehow, in a few short days, gas stoves have gone from a thing that some people cook with to, depending on your politics, either a child-poisoning death machine or a treasured piece of national patrimony. Suddenly, everyone has an opinion. Gas stoves! Who could have predicted it?The roots of the present controversy can be traced back to late December, when scientists published a paper arguing that gas stoves are to blame for nearly 13 percent of childhood-asthma cases in the United States.

May the Best Stove Win

Somehow, in a few short days, gas stoves have gone from a thing that some people cook with to, depending on your politics, either a child-poisoning death machine or a treasured piece of national patrimony. Suddenly, everyone has an opinion. Gas stoves! Who could have predicted it?The roots of the present controversy can be traced back to late December, when scientists published a paper arguing that gas stoves are to blame for nearly 13 percent of childhood-asthma cases in the United States.

Maybe Don’t Unleash the Kraken

These days, it’s a real headache to keep tabs on the coronavirus’s ever-shifting subvariants. BA.2, BA.4, and BA.5, three Omicron permutations that rose to prominence last year, were confusing enough. Now, in addition to those, we have to deal with BQ.1.1, BF.7, B.5.2.6, and XBB.1.5, the version of Omicron currently featuring in concerned headlines. Recently, things have also gotten considerably stranger.

Should Everyone Be Masking Again?

Winter is here, and so, once more, are mask mandates. After last winter’s crushing Omicron spike, much of America did away with masking requirements. But with cases once again on the rise and other respiratory illnesses such as RSV and influenza wreaking havoc, some scattered institutions have begun reinstating them. On Monday, one of Iowa’s largest health systems reissued its mandate for staff.

Five Remarkable Chats That Will Help You Understand ChatGPT

Move over Siri and Alexa, there’s a new AI in town and it’s ready to steal the show—or at least make you laugh with its clever quips and witty responses.That is how ChatGPT, the powerful chatbot released last week by the AI company OpenAI, suggested that I begin this story about ChatGPT.

What Has Technology Done to Soccer?

Well, that didn’t take long.Less than two minutes into Sunday’s World Cup opening match, between Ecuador and the host country, Qatar, the Ecuadorians won a free kick just beyond half field. Their left back lofted a dangerous ball toward goal, Qatar’s keeper came sprinting off his line to punch the ball away, and one of Ecuador’s center backs leaped to challenge for it with his head. From there, pandemonium: Several players collided; the ball shot straight up in the air.

PredictIt Already Won

On Tuesday evening, I logged on to PredictIt, America’s favorite political-betting site, to watch the Election Night chaos ensue. People were betting on control of the Senate. People were betting on who’d be elected mayor of San José, California. People were betting on whether Donald Trump would file for another run at the presidency this year.

What a ‘Tripledemic’ Means for Your Body

In 2020, and again in 2021, the dreaded twindemic never came. The worry among experts was that a winter COVID surge layered on top of flu season—or even, in worst-case scenarios, a flu outbreak of pandemic proportions—would push already strained hospitals to the brink. Thankfully, we got lucky. Flu season simply didn’t materialize in 2020: The United States recorded only about 2,000 cases, a jaw-dropping 110 times fewer than it had the season prior.

The Masks We’ll Wear in the Next Pandemic

On one level, the world’s response to the coronavirus pandemic over the past two and half years was a major triumph for modern medicine. We developed COVID vaccines faster than we’d developed any vaccine in history, and began administering them just a year after the virus first infected humans. The vaccines turned out to work better than top public-health officials had dared hope.

Fauci Addresses ‘The Pandemic Is Over’

Editor’s Note: Editor’s Note: This article is part of our coverage of The Atlantic Festival. Learn more and watch festival sessions here. Several days after President Joe Biden declared that “the pandemic is over,” Anthony Fauci weighed in on the president’s controversial remarks during an interview at The Atlantic Festival, an annual live event in Washington, D.C.

There’s Nothing Quite Like the Wrath of Losing Your Fantasy League

At first, Damon DuBois’s fantasy-football league kept the punishment for the last-place finisher fairly tame. The loser would have to let the champion select their team name for the following year, take care of the housekeeping at the next draft, or, at worst, sport an I suck at fantasy football license plate all off-season. Nothing crazy.But by the final weeks of each season, league members already eliminated from playoff contention were checking out. DuBois wanted to raise the stakes.

Are We Really Getting COVID Boosters Every Year Forever?

School is in session, pumpkin spice is in season, and Americans are heading to pharmacies for what may soon become another autumn standby: your annual COVID shot. On Tuesday, the White House announced the start of a “new phase” of the pandemic response, one in which “most Americans” will receive a COVID-19 vaccine just “once a year, each fall.

Fish Oil Is Good! No, Bad! No, Good! No, Wait

At first, it was all very exciting. In 1971, a team of Danish researchers stationed on Greenland’s northwest coast found that a local Inuit community had remarkably low levels of diabetes and heart disease. The reason, the researchers surmised, was their high-marine-fat diet—in other words, fish oil. Incidence of heart disease, which once afflicted relatively few Americans, had shot up since the turn of the century, and here, seemingly, was a simple solution.